While the 2020 coronavirus pandemic has impacted our day-to-day professional, social, and recreational lives, it has also had many adverse effects on our mental health. In a recent poll, 45% of American adults said that their mental health has suffered due to worry and stress brought on by this worldwide pandemic. As social distancing continues to leave many people, especially senior citizens, feeling isolated and lonely, this percentage will likely increase.
Keeping stress and anxiety at bay is a crucial factor in maintaining mental wellness. If you or a loved one is struggling to see the light at the end of this tunnel, consider these healthy ways to improve coping and mental health:
We’re all aware of the benefits that exercise has on our physical bodies, but exercise may be even more critical for our mental well-being. Regular exercise is proven to reduce anxiety and depression, alleviate symptoms of social withdrawal, boost overall mood, and increase energy. While it may seem overwhelming at first, even short bouts of five to ten minutes of exercise spread throughout the day can be beneficial. To exercise while staying socially distanced, try walking, cycling, swimming, dancing, stair climbing, or taking an online exercise class.
A diet rich in vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and healthy fats can positively affect emotions and mood and lower the risk of cognitive decline. Create meals around healthy and colorful foods and include unsaturated fats, leafy green vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon, blueberries, avocados, spinach, eggs, and nuts are all excellent choices. The next time you or your loved one is settling in for a good TV binge-watching session, skip the chips and grab some veggies and hummus instead.
Get Plenty of Sleep
We’ve all experienced a bad night’s sleep and then suffered from feeling cranky and irritable the next day. Getting enough good sleep has many benefits that include increased mood, less risk for developing depression, and better cognition. Experts recommend that seniors over the age of sixty-five get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. To improve sleep while spending more time at home, avoid naps, stay on a schedule, and exercise regularly.
Connect with Others
One of the most challenging aspects of social distancing and quarantining is not being able to socialize with friends and loved ones. Though you may not realize it, socializing and making emotional connections can decrease depression, improve mood, and extend life expectancy. While socializing and connecting with others during this time may require more effort and creativity, it is still possible to do so. Online and face-to-face phone calls, game nights, and movie nights are great options for those who have to stay home. Otherwise, schedule a walk or meet outdoors for a cup of coffee and a chat.
Take a Media Break
Many of us are consuming more information via televised news and social media than ever before to stay informed and socially engaged. While doing so may make us feel that we’re staying connected and up to speed, spending too much time on social media or watching the news can increase feelings of loneliness, isolation, depression, and anxiety. Limit daily news and social media intake and spend that extra time doing more productive things like connecting with others, exercising, sleeping, reading, or learning a new hobby.
Consider Senior Living
If your loved one is struggling with keeping a positive outlook, socializing from afar, eating healthily, or any of the many other essential factors discussed above, consider moving them into a senior living community. These communities are geared towards providing seniors with varied, fulfilling lifestyles while maintaining their safety and health. Social opportunities, nutritious meals, exercise classes, and mental, physical and emotional support or care are all provided and designed with safety as the guiding principle.
If you or a loved one are experiencing small changes in your mood and outlook, the above suggestions may be beneficial. However, please contact a professional or trusted physician if you or your loved one is severely struggling and has exhibited significant changes in behavior or mood.